Monday, November 30, 2009

Pass me on!

Many folks are working hard at building community these days - networking, talking with mentors and peers, having back-to-back coffee meetings. And yet, many comment on how slowly progress is made.

What might help is letting your current community help you! We often approach coffee/tea meetings as 'one-offs', setting each one up as an isolated incident that may/may not span more than the two original invitees. Why not end these coffee meetings with a question "Who else could you suggest I talk to about X?"

A simple question - but it often leads to introductions to new people.

Don't just meet with your circle, meet with the circles of those you know and offer yours in return!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Volunteering as a means to network

I am sticking to my original belief - volunteering is a great way to network.

Last night, I volunteered at a not-for-profit gala for Mixed Company Theatre's 25th anniversary as the 'stage manager'. Basically, I created the event's flow sheet and made sure everyone not only made it to the stage on time, but felt comfortable doing so.

I met every speaker. I met many attendees. I helped a few folks even if it was simply to tell them which were my favourite hors d'ouevres. With very little effort (except for walking in heels and standing up straight in a fabulous dress from Posh), it was a successful event from both the celebration itself to a networking standpoint. And Suhana Meharchand is a terrific emcee!

Volunteering can take span one event, one committee or one cause depending on how much time you have to give. You start because of a desire to contribute - which of course is the heart of Similar Circles. But it also serves you - developing or highlighting skills and giving you a terrific reason to talk to people.

I ask all my mentorees to consider volunteering!

P.S. It turns out that an over-rotated shoulder makes it hard to type at the computer. Who knew? So I apologize for missing the Wednesday posting.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Quote of the week

A wonderful Similar Circles participant - who is also a fine jazz singer - killed a bottle of wine with me some weeks ago. She told me a tale which ended with the line "May you live the life you have earned."

Like the proverb "May you live in interesting times", her line could be read many ways. (I have a few old flames for whom that line might not been seen as positive :-)

Like karma, like paying a good deed forward, like simply trying to offer a hand as often as ask - it's easy to see how participating in our communities can only help everyone blossom. Contributing joy, brings you joy. Maybe not in equal measures but still the circle is created. Listening gets you heard. Being open brings you new ideas. etc. etc. etc.

I'm proud to quote those I deem insightful and influential in my life. I'm even prouder when I know them well enough to share food and drink.

May you live the life you have earned.
Julie Michels

Friday, November 20, 2009

Going blank for a moment

What a week: interviews, coffees, mentoring and being mentored. And here it is, 3am, and my mind is as blank as printer paper.

I've given and received useful - and useless - advice all week. The community has passed around articles, quotes and links. We've debated, agreed, disagreed and ignored copious amounts of information. Subjects have ranged from parenting teens (the great mystery) to leadership to just plain grousing (always necessary in small doses).

I've worried, fretted and planned about jobs (me and my friends), values, transitions, nutritious meals, health and laundry.

Sometimes you just hit 'overload'. Sometimes the best thing you can do is play Snood on the iMac till 3am. Sometimes a murder mystery or cheesy movie is all the stimulation we need.

This weekend I'm just going to let life happen.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Workshop anyone?

I've been on a new exploration lately. Looking for my next job had me evaluate the tools I use and how well they reflect me. The resume and cover letter, even with my community promoting me and providing me with personal introductory coffees, didn't seem like the right approach.

Following my own philosophy, my application package should:
* put forward the strengths I enjoy over any other strengths I have
* help folks understand my journey is not linear so a resume doesn't tell you what I could do or where I will go
* and help folks understand that all my experience will support my next step, not just the direct experience in a particular area.

With that in mind, I tool my skills list and created a brief PowerPoint presentation that I'm happy to say is my pictorial bio. Plus I parsed the job descriptions, real or verbal, into a chart that mapped back to the skills list, including my volunteer work and my personal passions.

People have laughed, wondered and nodded when they see my new tools but they all have called me in to chat.

I'm thinking there's a workshop in this (and thus the funds for a website...) Anyone interested?

Monday, November 16, 2009

Let's get emotional!!

Do you find yourself trying to act more remote/emotionless in public than usual?

With such stereotypes such as "women are emotional" and "professional means serious and always calm", have we left a critical and strategic piece of ourselves behind?

In the recent Toronto Star articles around the evolving neuroscience and education debate, the issue is raised that folks who have lost the ability (due to accident or illness) to experience emotion cannot make decisions.

And yet, our professional cultures often praise those who remain rational, logical and remove emotion from the equation. Meaning they are not making a true decisions that uses all the tools and faculties required for good decision making?

In our efforts to be more professional, have we forgotten that we are creatures of emotion and need (and that's ok as long as it isn't draped across your desk every moment)?

We feel - from the C-suite executive to the artist in the underheated church basement - every look and remark. We choose to respond or not and how.

I'm not suggesting the Return of the Drama Queen. Far from it. But perhaps our difficulty in making genuine connections across our networks is the limits we set on the emotion we allow ourselves to both express and accept?

Friday, November 13, 2009

Genders apart

I held my first deliberately 'women only' event recently. I've never thought of Similar Circles and the peer to peer networking/mentoring as unique for women. I'm still not convinced we need to separate the genders or the generations or the industries or or or...

The difference doesn't lie in our sex or race or economic status. It’s the difference between folks understanding what a personal community/network is vs. a database of potential clients. *sigh* There will always be those for whom the transaction, instead of the relationship, is a way of life.

Granted, there is the debate around whether or not those of the opposite sex must first go through the 'do I desire them/do they desire me?' before making a connection becomes comfortable. But given that a room full of only one gender does not mean there are no sexual tension issues, perhaps that debate might now be laid to rest as well?

I'm not implying that we've achieved gender equality here in Canada or anywhere in the world for that matter. Far from it. But, as regards the Similar Circles face-to-face events, are we helping or hindering by putting up boundaries?

I must confess, when I meet folks for the first or fourteenth time, my first criteria is 'are you a like-mind?'. I may also glance at their shoes but only out of curiosity :-)

Do you need women-only events if it's not on topics specific to women?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


On this Remembrance Day, I'm sending good thoughts out to the incredible women I've met this year who are advancing microfinancing projects in poverty-stricken and/or war-ravaged areas around the world.

I don't just want to remember - I want to learn compassion and prevention.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Social media - the journey

Going a thought further with my earlier Social Media posts - I wonder if the next generation of social media tools might come from our needs and desires instead of simply fitting the new into our established business practices.

By that I mean that we don't know yet how the walls of communication are changing. Like Brecht blew the 4th wall in theatre or the printing press opened education, we don't know where the journey is going yet.

Many business models are trying to absorb social media instead of use the opportunity to rethink how we connect all togther. Some groups fear its power either because it's unknown or it poses new security risks. Some business fear being left behind or left out. Some folks just don't see past the fact their target audience is using them ...but not really looking at the potential evolution of both the audience and the tools themselves.

Currently, business is 'tool' obsessed and trying them out like everyone once tried Trivial Pursuit. But what are we fundamentally trying to do? Build communities without borders? Share knowledge? Blend our methods of explaining/viewing/exploring the world? Simply reach out?

By need and desire, I still don't mean the transactional interactions (e.g. job hunting) that so limit our capacity to connect. I don't mean consumerism. I don't mean the need to control the unknown. I mean emotional goals such as the desire to build community, learn and reach out.

I'd love to see this evolve from desire instead of the fears.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Emotional goals

There’s an interesting series of articles this week in one of my city’s newspapers about the science of the brain and learning. As one interested in education and how we learn - and how that ties to parenting as well as learning through my graying years – I’m eating it up.

An interesting question was posed in the article written on Thursday, Nov. 5. If your intellectual goal and your emotional goal aren’t matched, then you won’t learn/change. “Emotional thought is the platform for learning, memory, decision-making and creativity…This means emotion can be a barrier, or a conduit, to learning….That means making the student feel the goal is emotionally relevant.”

Which made me think about our discomfort with meeting strangers in any setting, attending large events or simply building community around ourselves.

I’ve compared the discomfort to liking/disliking brussel sprouts, which is still true. However, perhaps the difference is:
o if you approach it as a task or transaction which must be done (focused on the event or meeting instead of the goal)
o as philosophy to which you resonate/have emotional ties.

You’ll figure out, through developing habits and tactics, how to deal with those more stressful pieces if building community is part of your philosophy and therefore part of your emotional response to the world.

In other words, wanting to participate is the most important piece even if you’re working through how to participate.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

A side topic posting...

To unwind, I often watch movies (when not reading murder mysteries) but sometimes I idle before a TV show.

Most TV doesn't stick - it seems meant to be closer to candy than a meal. But the other night I watched an episode of Castle that made a quiet and necessary statement.

The show - a cop hour - unravelled the murder of a young woman who had been sexually abused by a trusted figure. Unlike many shows which have played this plot, profiling the abuser, questioning where to apportion blame or simply titillating the audience - this show put out a simple powerful message.

It showed a 'victim' who tried to walk away and survive. It showed a community unanimous in its disgust and zero tolerance for this terrible offence. It gave a clear message to the abuser (and audience) that there is no excuse ever and that we will support those who ask for help.

I am afraid this message needs a broader audience and frequent repeats.

All children - of all ages - deserve love, shelter and food. I fervently try to contribute to the love - one can't simply ask to help with this through a paycheque deduction.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Tales we tell ourselves

We all do it - tell ourselves tales that become part of our personal mythology. From the common ones like "I'm not pretty enough to..." to the ones we whisper late at night when feeling insecure "I'm not smart enough to...", we comfort/cajole/belittle ourselves with tales of who we think we are or snippets of what others have told us they believe about us.

Repeated often enough, like any habit, they become part of us and therefore true.

What we forget is - like any habit - we can change them, whispering new tales and making the new stories of self equally true.

These days I tell myself: I am not disorganized or fearful of excel spreadsheets; I am not afraid to ask for a raise (or a job); I can bake an awesome cream puff; I do hold a political opinion; and I can wear bright colours and still be taken seriously. I tell myself that I do remember names - um...yeah...that one still needs some work.

I know I had this conversation with you recently. Thought I should have it with myself again. lol